Category Archives: Skeleton Key Project

April Wrap-Up

So… April is over. How did that happen? It seems like I was just setting my goals for this month, and WHOOSH. Gone. Time to set some for May.

Crazy.

I know things have been quiet here while I’ve been focusing on my actual writing work, but here’s a quick recap.

LIFE

Drank a lot of coffee. Drank even more tea. Had a CT scan on my head. Bought myself flowers (not related to any of the previous, but it happened).

My province’s budget came out, and includes massive library closures, larger class sizes in schools, and an additional 10% tax on books (when we’re already the Canadian province with the lowest literacy rate, SWEET DEAL). I get that we need money, but the short-sightedness of all of this blew my mind, and there may have been some ranting on Twitter. *cough*

April is still winter here, even though everyone always forgets that and expects it to be spring. Nine degrees one day, snow the next. At least it’s pretty.

I started Couch to 5K training this month, and just finished week three this morning. What I’m doing now wouldn’t seem like a challenge to most runners, but it is for me. I like the feeling of pushing myself through the hard parts and getting the feeling of accomplishment that comes with that. Of course, I’ve thought of a bunch of ways this is like becoming a writer, but that’s a whole other post.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 13.38.22

Me and my running buddy after week 3, day 1. The snow caught up with us. 🙂

 

READING

According to Goodreads, I read/finished four books in April. The first was You Are A Badass, which was a quick, easy introduction to a lot of self-improvement stuff like overcoming hang-ups (big thing for me, still working on that whole fear of success deal), setting goals, affirmations, visualizations, etc. The casual tone was nice, save for the use of “rill” instead of “really,” which made me want to set the book down and back away slowly. I also read Nail Your Story by Monica Leonelle (interesting take on story structure with ideas and worksheets I’ll be using in the future), The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle (fun story a friend sent me ages ago and I finally had time to read), and The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (lovely adventure/fantasy-with-no-magic romance. Slow to start, amazing twists and excitement by the end. Recommended to anyone who likes my stuff). Oh. I also read Hard as Ice by Victoria Barbour (another Newfoundland author). I liked Against Her Rules a little better, but it was a fun romance read with the same NL vibe as that one. I need to add that to GR…

Next up: Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’m not sure I’m ready for this one, but I’m trying to alternate in-my-genres books and not-my-genres books, and this is next up for lit fic. Wish me and my tear ducts luck.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 14.04.46

Isn’t this cover adorable?

WRITING

April was an interesting month for my work. Into Elurien, my 50K* contribution to a series of stand-alone novellas by bestselling indie Fantasy Romance authors, is going fabulously. It came back from edits needing a little work, but that went quickly, and it’s now out with beta readers. It’s getting amazing feedback from readers so far. One who loved the Bound Trilogy said she thinks she might like this story even better. I’m completely in love with the characters in this one, and will be sad to let them go. I didn’t even know them back in January, and now we’re almost finished… crazy. But it’s very ready to go, and I can’t wait to see it out in the world.

My other project, The Phoenix Game (working title), is proving a bit more challenging. I didn’t do enough ground-work before I started drafting, because I was trying to take advantage of the weeks I had while IE was out with alpha readers and with my editor. I didn’t get to know the characters well enough, didn’t explore the themes and ideas I’m working with in enough depth, and while my vision for the story is massive and beautiful, the mechanics weren’t quite in place yet. Add to that the challenge of writing in third person when I prefer first (for reading and writing), and what I’ve got so far is 30K words of a book with potential, but that doesn’t have the momentum and keen edge that I want.

So I’m taking a break and reading a bit more on story structure before I continue. Yes, it’s just a first draft, but when I know I’ve made a wrong turn I like to study the map and fix it instead of driving off cliffs, you know?

By the time IE is finished and up for pre-order (May 15), I should be ready to focus entirely on this one. It’s the most challenging book I’ve ever written. A YA story with a potentially complicated structure involving the past and the future (as well as gods and mortals), a deep backstory, themes that I’m still conflicted about myself, and a big cast of characters who are all likely to demand more page time than I can realistically give them when my goal is to keep it around 100K words after edits.

And that’s exciting. It’s wonderful. And it’s a little intimidating when the kids’ summer vacation is just around the corner and I have edits booked for January.

But I think writing is like a game. You level up with each finished project, and while I couldn’t have done this one justice a few years ago, I’m ready  for this challenge now.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 14.05.19

So that’s my April. I’m going to go plan for May now. That will include lots of fun stuff for my readers. Not just pre-orders, but teasers, chapter reveals, a character reveal or two, and (if I can find time), maybe some videos for me to post here and on YouTube as I continue to step outside of my comfort zone and do new things.

Anything is possible.

What were your highlights this month?

*I know, 50K is technically a novel, but series guidelines permit it. Consider it extra value, as it’ll be the same price it would have been at 30K words. 😉

 

 

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INTO ELURIEN COVER REVEAL

Here we go.

I can’t even explain how excited I am about this book. What started as a “Yeah, I could squeeze a shorter project into my schedule” became something I’m madly in love with. These characters, this world, the ideas I got to play with and the story that took shape as I wrote it… It’s just so much more than I ever expected it to be when I took it on as a fun challenge. One of my favourite things I’ve ever written.

Here’s the cover copy again, for anyone who missed it:

Out of plans and out of luck…

Hazel Walsh left her island town three years ago, determined to never to return. But a series of missteps and misfortunes have left her homeless, heartbroken, and with no option but to return and take a job she doesn’t want in a place she fears will strangle her.

On her way, she stops for the night at the Old Brook Inn. It’s a place of local myth and legend—things that Hazel hasn’t believed in since she was a child. When she finds a strange key in the attic and tries it in a locked door, she suddenly wishes she’d paid more attention to the fantasy stories she once scoffed at.

She’s thrown into a world in the midst of revolution, where monsters have overthrown the humans who once enslaved them. All of them, that is, except Verelle, the cruel sorceress queen who vanished at the moment of Hazel’s arrival. If Hazel wants to have any chance of surviving and making it back to her own world, she’ll have to join forces with the amalgus Zinian—horned, winged, mysterious, and monstrously attractive—to unravel the mystery of Verelle’s disappearance. If they can’t, the fates of two worlds may be at stake.

This one will be available for pre-order May 15 and releases June 15, 2016. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR now via this link.

Ready? Here you go.

EBOOK

Whew.

Big thanks to Jennifer at JM Rising Horse Creations, who did such an amazing job with this gorgeous cover! Not only that, she’s doing ALL of the covers for the Skeleton Key series. You can check them out here.

What is the Skeleton Key series? It’s 30 books by 30 authors, all standalone fantasy romance novellas with a happily ever after guaranteed, featuring a range story types, sub-genres, worlds, characters, and heat levels. It looks like we’ve got fae, dragons, shifters, warrior queens, and of course monsters (*happy dance*). It’s going to be amazing. I’m really excited about this series, and I’ll have more information for you as we get closer to release day.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to share this post. ^_^

 

 


CRUNCH TIME! :D

Yeah, I put a stupid happy face in the title. It seemed fitting.

The past month or so has been weird for me. I finished up post-alpha reader revisions on Into Elurien several weeks before it was scheduled to go to my editor, and she was kind enough to let me send it in so I’d stop picking at it, and in case she could get to it a bit early.

Sue may be a kindred spirit. She gets it.

Anyway, I had another project to work on after I sent that off. A big one. Probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done, in style if not scope or size. It’s a story I’ve been excited about since the idea popped into my head early one morning last year, and I’ve been itching to get to it.

And yet.

This is going to sound horribly unprofessional, especially if you’re familiar with the production styles of other writers, many of whom crank books out in a month, work on two or three books at a time in various states of production, and have no trouble jumping from story to story… but I really hate working on multiple projects.

I just don’t deal well with interruptions. I can’t start working in the morning if I know I’m likely to be interrupted in an hour by Jehovah’s Witnesses*.  I like hours to spread out, get my head into whatever I’m working on… time to procrastinate… I know, it’s a problem. I’m working on it!

My point is, I had a hard time getting momentum on the first draft of The Phoenix Game (working title) when I knew Into Elurien would be coming back before I got through the draft. I like to push through drafts in one go, so the knowledge that I’d be interrupted–even a few weeks down the road–was distracting and demotivating.

So as much as I adore this new book and all of its puzzling challenges, it was actually a relief when I opened my email yesterday to find Into Elurien back safe from edits. I mean, it’s bleeding, but it’s basically cosmetic issues. Big change from my full-length novels, which come back hacked to shreds, requiring a month or more of work to put them back together.

So that’s progress, and I’m excited to get IE done so I can then turn my full attention back to PG and really dig deep into it.

Today I get to return to my beloved Hazel, who’s going to be getting a little character work done to help her story flow well. I get to get reacquainted with Auphel, who’s stealing hearts wherever she goes. And I get to see Zinian again, who’s just… Yeah. It’s getting hard having my heart split between all of my book guys. He’s special. I want one.

What was I saying?

Right. PROGRESS! I’ve got beta readers lined up for the beginning of May. Pre-orders going up May 15. Release day June 15. Parties. Giveaways. Teasers.

And, of course, the cover reveal TOMORROW. AND sending out the newsletter, in which subscribers will meet Zinian for themselves. First excerpt. GAH. Excitement! Flailing!

You can probably tell I’m excited about this book. 😉

Into elurien promo square release month

 

*Yes, they come once a week. They know I’m not converting, but I AM learning a lot about prophecy and beliefs other than my own, which are Totally Useful Things in my line of work. And they’re really nice.


COVER REVEAL ANNOUNCEMENT (and a newsletter bonus!)

*taps microphone*

Hello?

Hi. Just a quick post today. After much hemming and hawing and trying to decide whether the cover reveal for Into Elurien should wait until pre-orders are available, I’ve come to a decision.

And the decision is: Screw that. I want you guys to see it. Those of you who haven’t, I mean. Newsletter subscribers saw it last month. 🙂

So the official Into Elurien cover reveal will be happening this Friday, April 15. That’s exactly one month before pre-orders go up. EEK!

into elurien teaser

DRESS! BOOK! MAGIC! DARKNESS! YAY!

I want this week to be special for newsletter subscribers, too, so they’re going to get something EXTRA special on Friday. They’ve seen the cover, so they get to meet… well, a very interesting character an early chapter excerpt.

You want to sign up for this. Zinian is a bit of a monster, but I think you’ll like him. Visit this link to get on the list, and be sure to add my email to your approved senders list so you don’t miss the excitement!

And I’ll see you here on Friday. 🙂

(If you’d like to help out by posting the cover reveal on your own blog, I’d be really grateful and super excited to have you on board! Just email me at kate.sparkes@live.ca and we’ll work that out. Anyone who helps out will be first in line for an advance review copy of this adventure-packed new adult fantasy romance–just let me know you want one when we talk.)

 


Passion Project

So… I thought I’d post a little update here. Not just a follow-up to what we talked about a few weeks ago (though I would like to thank everyone who jumped in with comments and your own stories, as it’s good to know that sharing was helpful to some of you), but to give you a peek into what’s happening in my wee story workshop right now.

My work has been fairly predictable for the past few years as I focused on getting the Bound Trilogy finished. It was narrow in focus, high-pressure, and a huge learning experience for me as a new author who never really expected anyone to read my first book. Things are changing, and I’m so excited to talk a little about what I’ve got on the go right now.

Into Elurien, my contribution to the very exciting Skeleton Key Book Series, is with a capable editor right now. The same one who edited At Any Cost for me, actually.* This project pushes the upper limit of suggested word count for the series, but keeping it small was still a big challenge for me. I wanted to satisfy my readers’ expectations for worldbuilding, character development, quality writing, and exciting plot while I satisfied the series’ demands of romance, length, and subject matter, and this one didn’t want to be a smaller story. But I did it, and I love it.

I finished post-critique edits for that about three weeks early, which means I’m expecting a bomb to go off during editing that will leave me with massive clean-up to do, but I’ve got time to deal with that. Into Elurien will be available for pre-order mid-May and release in June, along with a few dozen other books by amazing authors. Watch here for information on the cover reveal (though if you know where to look, you might be able to find it early!), and for more details on the story as pre-order day gets closer.

So that brings us to what I’m working on now.

It’s big. Not in word count (I’m aiming for under 100K words), but in the magnitude of the challenge. It’s a story that has its backstory roots hundreds of years before the main plot, told in third person POV–not my first choice, but necessary if I want to make the structure that I want work properly. It’s a little dystopian in mood and theme, basically utopian in practice (except for one wee, horrible detail), and involves a style of storytelling that people are either going to love or hate.

And right now, it’s a massive challenge. I started drafting, scrapped most of the 11,000 words I wrote in that first week, stepped back, and took another week to get to know my characters better through a questionnaire so deep that I don’t think I could answer all of the questions for myself. I am finding it difficult to find their voices when they’re not speaking onto the page (I really miss first person!), but I’m getting there. I’m back to the writing now, and it’s going a bit more smoothly.

This is one of those stories that’s so amazing in my head that there’s no way I’ll replicate it perfectly on the page. That’s been true of every story I’ve ever written, but it’s really staring me in the face this time. I expect this one will teach me a lot during the revision process, and more through edits. That’s always the goal, you know. I have a whole lot to learn about the art and craft of storytelling, and doing it (and getting professional feedback) is the best way to learn.

It’s definitely a passion project, and I’m writing it because I’m in love, not because it seems like it’s going to make me more money than anything else in the idea file. It’s not on a tight deadline. Not hotly anticipated like a sequel to something else would be. It’s something I can take my time with (within reason; edits are booked for February), experiment with, and release because it’s a story I think deserves to be told.

And it’s going to be amazing. In terms of the base idea of the story, it’s probably most exciting, high-concept one I’ve had. I just need to figure out how to make that promise a reality on the page.

(Side note to anyone who has The Best Story Idea Ever and thinks they could write a bestseller if they only had the time: The blockbuster idea is the easy part, and on its own means nothing. I know, I was sad to hear that, too. But great ideas really are a dime a dozen. A CANADIAN dime, even.)

But I can’t think about the end right now, about releasing it and how excited my regular readers will be about this thrilling, heartbreaking, twisty and turny, myth-topian thing. Right now it’s one day at a time, getting the words out. I’m on a bad cycle for headaches, which means my brain’s not working, and I’m still dealing with depression and anxiety (though I am getting them under control). My focus and attention are almost nonexistent. That means taking it slow when I need to, forgiving myself for not hitting my usual 5,000+ words a day (yesterday I only got 1800), and letting things develop at their own pace.

img_8262

Planners are 
fun 😀

It’s what I want, right? Less pressure. More time to let things stew and develop. More time for my subconscious to make connections within the story like it did when I was building the world that Bound took place in. But it’s scary, too. Momentum is considered such a desirable thing in this industry that taking time off or slowing down feels wrong.

But it’s necessary for me. I’m learning my limits. I’m learning that I recently pushed myself past them, and I’m still recovering from that. And I’m learning how to do this thing my way. It’s not the “here’s how to sell a million books on Kindle” way, but it’s mine.

Pushing harder isn’t always the answer. We’ll see how getting back to the place where writing was my playground works out for this one. 🙂

 

 

 

*And thank goodness for Sue Archer, because my regular editor is now booking a year in advance! Hence the February deadline for the new project…


WIPpet Wednesday: Welcome to Fairbrook

Hey, everyone!

Just a quick WIPpet from me this week*. For 3/2, here are two paragraphs from chapter one (one for the first post of this month). This is from Into Elurien, the novella I’m working on for the Skeleton Key book series. It’s come back from alpha readers, and I’m in the process of getting it ready for editing.

AND… I have cover art! Newsletter subscribers will get to see it tomorrow, before the rest of the world. I think we’ll set the official reveal for… I changed my mind. Closer to the release, so if you want to see it, sign up! If anyone wants to join in on the fun when that does roll around (by posting, sharing, or stopping by). This one’s not out until June (pre-orders in May), but I can’t keep this under my hat for too much longer. 🙂

Here’s a taste…

into elurien teaser

Okay, snippet. Hazel is on her way back to her hometown, returning defeated after several years away at university. She’s not exactly thrilled about coming home…

The road improved as it wound through the forest that was so astonishing in autumn, when the last of the sightseers camped or lodged their way through and tagged their works #Fairbrook #fall #BimbleIsland #breathtaking #PayAttentionToMe. I knew this because I’d heard all about the town meeting regarding which hashtags to encourage and the ensuing confusion over what the hell these “hashbag” things were, anyway.

Fairbrook. A nice place to visit, but God, did I not want to live there.

Not that any of us have lived in towns like that, I’m sure.

Check out what the rest of the WIPpeteers are up to by following this link! Thanks to Emily Witt for hosting. And if you’re feeling all typey and sharey, feel free to join in on your own blog! Choose a quick snippet from your work in progress (relating to today’s date, of course), post it on your blog, and link back. “Easy-peasy London squeezy,” as my younger kid used to say.

*For new folks: WIPpet Wednesday is where a group of authors shares a short snippet from a work in progress that relates in some way to the date. I don’t always participate, but it sure is fun when I have time to. 🙂


WIPpet Wednesday: A Little Background

Hey, WIPpeteers and friends!

I didn’t think I’d have time to join in this week, but a snow day (our second in a row, in fact), has left me unable to get much actual work done, but with time to read some snippets! So here we are.

Hi.

Obviously I’m not sharing from Sworn anymore, because that ship has sailed.* But I’m not quite ready to reveal much about the plot of my new book, which I should be wrapping up the first draft of this week. And I was going to share its hero with you, but my newsletter subscribers get to be the first people to meet him (perks, y’all).

You should sign up. You want to meet him.

Anyway, for 2/10, here are two quick paragraphs from chapter 10. Our heroine is paging through a religious text in a strange new world, trying to figure out how she walked in on a revolution of monsters overthrowing humans.

I flipped back to earlier pages. “And in those days the monsters roamed the land, living as animals, without understanding. The humans came among them, bearing the bright spark bestowed upon them by divine grace. And the Mother decreed that men should rule over the monsters, which would in turn find Mother’s favour by submitting their wills to that of the spark-bearers.”

And there it was. The grounds for hundreds of years of slavery and servitude, all built on this passage.

Bingo.

Yes, I’m a little nervous that people will think I’m making a statement about religion with certain aspects of this story. For the most part, I hope readers will keep this in mind:

Screenshot 2016-02-10 09.12.27

It’s a work of fiction. If things happening in a fictional world hit too close to home, well… *shrugs*

Interested in more snippets? Click this link to see what the other WIPpeteers are up to and leave a comment to say hello. And if you’d like to join in, post a bit of your work in progress on your own blog (remember, it needs to relate to today’s date!), and link back.

Thanks again to Emily Witt for hosting.

 

 

 

 

 

*Good lord, I typed “that shit has sailed.” It’s not shit. It’s fantastic. And the e-book is still only $3.99 USD, but not for long. Just saying.


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